50% of eligible citizens will be called as potential lay judges

Kyodo News

Under the lay judge system to be introduced in May, roughly half the people nationwide registered on the list of candidates will likely be summoned by district courts for interviews as possible candidates, according to an estimate released Sunday.

The estimate is based on the number of serious criminal cases that were tried last year and would have been subject to the lay judge system and the number of people picked as initial candidates.

Because the system will start May 21, the number of cases to be tried until the end of next year under the model will be 1,511, or about 57 percent of last year’s figure of 2,643.

The Supreme Court sent letters Friday to 295,027 people to notify them that they have been selected as initial candidates for lay judges and may take part in trials for serious crimes in the next year.

According to the top court, each district court will pick by lot 50 to 100 people for each trial from the candidate list and summon them to the court for interviews by presiding judges. Six will then be selected to serve as lay judges.

One in two people on average will be served with the summons, according to the calculation.

Under the model, the probability is the highest — one in 0.9 — for the Nagano District Court, while one in 1.2 people will be summoned by the district courts in Hakodate, Sendai and Nara as well as the Fukushima District Court’s Koriyama branch.

The probability is one in 11.5 for the Fukushima District Court, followed by one in 5.1 for the Otsu District Court and one in 4.7 for the Nagoya District Court’s Okazaki branch.

Some people who received the letter have expressed puzzlement or discontent.

“I never wanted to be a judge, but I have no reasons to opt out,” said a 37-year-old female part-time worker in Tokyo. “As the mother of two kids, I believe severe punishment should be imposed on drunken drivers who caused serious accidents involving kids. I want to prepare by checking the news on a daily basis.”